Rainforest Journal

Rainforest Info, Images, and Adventures.

Climbing the Giants and taking their Portraits

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Trees are the biggest living organisms on our planet. It is hard to grasp the fact that a tiny seed can grow into a mighty tree one day. But nonetheless, I am in awe of how great the force of life is, illustrated through the trees of the earth. And what better way to pay homage to such literal living giants of our time than to climb and photograph them?

That is exactly what a group of tree enthusiasts from Australia are doing, with projects to capture the grandeur of trees from around the world (eventually) via portrait photography of the entire tree, from the roots to the crown. This provides a perspective of trees that is both unique and innovative.

When we trek through the rainforest, it is very difficult to get a sense of the dimensions of the bigger trees, because their crowns are so high up, and the view is usually obscured by other smaller trees and vegetation. Taking a portrait of the entire tree by taking many different shots of it and then stitching them all up, will produce a fine and accurate picture of the whole tree. That’s the easy part.

The hard part is in actually doing it.

To accomplish this, one needs:

  • To find a suitably large and representative tree that is visible from the base to the crown from another satellite/sister tree nearby, that is of similar height. This sister tree is needed to mount the camera and rig lines. In other words, you need two tall trees growing close to each other, and the trees plus their surroundings need to be representative of the greater forest around them – as a whole.
  • Experience in climbing trees is a must. This is still a rather unexplored “extreme sport”, but it’s catching on. Why climb buildings when you can climb trees?
  • Know-how in rigging the tree is also required (so that it can be climbed and photographed).
  • Photographing the tree all the way, from bottom to top. The lighting and weather conditions have to be right; obviously high winds and rain are major obstacles to contend with. Good cameras are needed.
  • Editing and stitching all the photos by hand. This is a very tedious task, and usually takes weeks to sort through the many photos, match them up, and blend them all together to form a cohesive portrait.

As Malaysia is now becoming famous for our dipterocarp trees (since we have the tallest trees in the tropics, and one of the tallest in the entire world), it’s inevitable that our trees/forests would get attention from tree experts and enthusiasts from around the globe (even if all we seem to be doing is trying to chop them down as fast as we can).

To this end, I was contacted by members of the Tree Project team, Steven Pearce and Jen Sanger, to help send a shout out their way. They told me they are planning on an expedition to Malaysia sometime in the near future, to do some portrait photography of our tall trees – once all the pieces come together. I think it’s a great idea…

Here are some of the photos they have done so far (all photos below are published with their permission) from Tasmania, which has many specimens of Eucalyptus regnans, some of the tallest trees in the world (the current record is 100 m). However, Malaysia is not far behind; especially in Sabah, many trees there have only been recently determined by modern LiDAR technology to be around or over 90 m in height!

eucalyptus regnans

This is an Australian Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). This is how an 84 m tall tree looks; there are similarly majestic trees from the Malaysian rainforest that are as tall (or taller).

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The final results of their project will be put on display as an exhibition for the public.

Their site is here: TheTreeProjects, and their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/thetreeprojects/

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